Respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis

Alexander K C Leung, James D Kellner, H Dele Davies
Journal of the National Medical Association 2005, 97 (12): 1708-13
Respiratory syncytial virus, the most common cause of bronchiolitis, is the leading cause of infant hospitalization in developed countries and accounts for substantial mortality and morbidity in developing countries. Children at increased risk of developing severe bronchiolitis are those <6 weeks of age, those born prematurely and those with an underlying cardiopulmonary disorder or immunodeficiency. Approximately 80% of cases occur in the first year of life. By two years of age, virtually all children have been infected by at least one strain of the virus. Classically, respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis manifests as cough, wheezing and respiratory distress. The mainstay of treatment is supportive care, consisting of adequate fluid intake, antipyretics to control fever and use of supplemental oxygen if necessary. Frequent and meticulous hand-washing is the best measure to prevent secondary spread. Treatment of respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis beyond supportive care should be individualized. Palivizumab has been shown to be effective in preventing severe respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis in high-risk children when given prophylactically. In the majority of cases, the disease is usually self-limited. The mortality rate is <1% and occurs predominantly in children at high risk for severe disease.

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